Collaborative Spaces and Engagement

01/25/2013 | By Christopher Curtland

Assess your facility’s needs for more huddle spaces

A sunken collaboration area allows employees to hold impromptu or planned meetings and exchange ideas via interactive multimedia. It also features movable tables with built-in paper supply and semi-private lounge sofas.
Credit: MPA

Rows of cubicles can be as dull and rigid as a Rubik’s Cube, but collaborative spaces introduce more activity and flexibility into the workplace.

“As enclosed offices have phased out, the shift to open office plans has allowed more collaborative spaces to come in,” says Marc Margulies, principal at Margulies Perruzzi Architects (MPA), a firm that specializes in collaborative design. “People think they’re losing space, but if you introduce more huddle and gathering places, then you’re not really losing out.”

Regardless of your facility type, there are ways to reimagine and reconfigure your workplace to create a more engaged workforce.

“Start with a discussion of how you’re working now and how you’re going to work in the future,” Margulies suggests. “Focus on how to best utilize your real estate.”

Use Furniture that Fosters Engagement
There are two different metrics to consider with occupancy: square footage per occupant vs. per workstation. While cubicles are shrinking, collaborative spaces allow the space allotted per person to be maintained.

Consider how your space is employed now. Is the large conference room being used only a couple times per month? Is the café area used at all? Most of the time, only about 70% of workstations are actually occupied, Margulies estimates.

Meld traditional heads-down work with huddle spaces in the same environment, says Jonathan Webb, vice president of business markets for manufacturer KI. This can be provided with lounge furniture common in student centers.

“Companies want to attract and retain young talent. What better way to do that than to look at where your new employees just spent the last four to six years of their lives?” Webb says. “Lounge or bistro areas naturally foster community.”

These areas are ideally incorporated around the perimeter of the building where traffic passes, says Pedro Ayala, director of architecture and design strategies for manufacturer Kimball Office.

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